César Chávez’s place at the White House

President Biden touching his mask while sitting at desk with César Chávez bust and framed photos on table behind him (© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
A bust of César Chávez is seen behind President Biden as he prepares to sign a series of executive orders on Inauguration Day in Washington. (© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

As President Biden redecorated the Oval Office at the White House, he placed a bust of labor activist César Chávez in his workspace.

Chávez’s likeness, surrounded by family photographs on a table behind the president’s desk, signals Biden’s belief in workers’ dignity.

Chávez, who died in 1993, spent much of his life championing workers. During the 1960s and 1970s, he brought attention to the substandard pay and punishing conditions of farmworkers particularly, many of them Latinos.

He espoused nonviolent forms of advocacy. Notably, he joined Filipino Americans in the five-year Delano grape strike that won farmworkers higher pay and better conditions — from lunch breaks to access to toilets and clean water.

“Placing a bust of my father in the Oval Office symbolizes the hopeful new day that is dawning for our nation,” said Paul Chávez, César Chávez’s son. “It represents faith and empowerment for an entire people on whose behalf he fought and sacrificed.”